Often I see myself as the woman chasing after her two children, her two unruly children. And in this scenario my children have wildly messy hair, smears of chocolate and grape juice across their adorable faces, they smell of vanilla cream sandwich cookies and their clothes are a mixed mess of too big t-shirts, too small pants and shoes that light up. Usually I am wearing yellow sweats and curlers. This is how I see us when we are at Target, or today, at the new L.L. Bean store somewhere out in the vast suburbs.
For who knows what reason I thought today was the appropriate day for a field trip so I loaded up the children and set off for Barrington, wherever that might be, far beyond what I imagined. But for such good reason, an actual Bean store outside of New England, outside of anything really; Kate thought we were in Iowa about five miles from the store, far from Maine, far from Chicago.
Here we are in what I call the "what did you say?" part of parenting. Mary, Mary, Mary, all said with varied inflections, all ignored until finally I get a "what did you say?". Kate, Kate, Kate, please get your mouth off the fish tank. Kate. Get your mouth off the fish tank, ONE, TWO, THREE.... And so I go about the canoes and the flannel sleeping bags and the golden retriever lunch bags repeating, over and over, my children's names, while they while away their time attempting to knock over a tent. And I'm fairly certain that everyone in the store thinks that I am a terrible mother, one with no control, one with wildly smelly children bent on destruction, because I think that is what I might think if I were to see me. But today I had another thought, courtesy of a wonderful older woman who looked at my madness, my two four year old bundles of wild energy and smiled, this amazing knowing smile that was full of longing and kindness. And I thought maybe, just maybe if I saw this same scene a few years from now I might wish that this was my madness again, that I could, on any given Wednesday, hop in the car and set off for the day, spending that day with two energetic and inquisitive children who were quite clean, quite well dressed, far from smelly and of the age where running off with their mom was still a fun adventure. Where at the end of the day they still said "Oooh I love you Mommy" and all was right with their world. So I'm grateful for my madness and for the kind lady who with one smile gave me back my straight hair and erased the grape covered children with the ill fitting clothing from my story.